Focusing on the why of the click

“We have only a surface-level appreciation of what motivates people and why they behave in a particular way.”

The newsroom of 2016 has screens of story metrics. Editors’ inboxes are full of data dashboards. Numbers play a part in the news meeting.

sarah-marshallWe may understand the lifecycle of a story, but how much do we understand what motivates our audiences?

  • What makes a reader return to a site every day?
  • Analytics can tell us that people visit a homepage without clicking on a story. But how are readers consuming news? By glancing at headlines and feeling informed? Are they instead overwhelmed or disinterested?
  • What role does emotion play in how we read, watch or explore?

This is the year we build on our data-guided decisions and embrace a reader-centric approach.

We are drowning in data. We have an in-depth understanding of story metrics, and we are starting to get smarter when it comes to recognizing reader interests. But we have only a surface-level appreciation of what motivates people and why they behave in a particular way.

Put simply: We know how to make readers click, we rarely understand why they do.

If we can better understand the people we rely on — our audiences — we can create better user experiences and products.

Sarah Marshall is is audience engagement editor for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa at The Wall Street Journal.

Dannagal G. Young   The return of the gatekeepers

Claire Wardle   Verification takes center stage

Guy Raz   Inspiration and hope will matter more than ever

Errin Haines   Chaos or community?

Millie Tran   International expansion without colonial overtones

Steve Henn   The next revolution is voice

Sarah Wolozin   Virtual reality on the open web

Dan Gillmor   Fix the demand side of news too

Michael Kuntz   Trust is the new click

Umbreen Bhatti   A sense of journalists’ humanity

Sam Ford   The year we talk about our awful metrics

Katie Zhu   The year of minority media

Tanya Cordrey   The resurgence of reach

Reyhan Harmanci   Bear witness — but then what?

Liz Danzico   The triumph of the small

Olivia Ma   The year collaboration beats competition

Amy Webb   Journalism as a service

Aja Bogdanoff   Comments start pulling their weight

Hillary Frey   Forests need to burn to regrow

Coleen O'Lear   Back to basics

Renée Kaplan   Pure reach has reached its limit

Bill Keller   A healthy skepticism about data

Priya Ganapati   Mobile websites are ready for reinvention

Molly de Aguiar   Philanthropists galvanize around news

Bill Adair   The year of the fact-checking bot

Sara M. Watson   There is no neutral interface

Cindy Royal   Preparing the digital educator-scholar hybrid

Helen Havlak   Chasing mobile search results

Megan H. Chan   Cultural reporting goes mainstream

Andy Rossback   The year of the user

David Skok   What lies beyond paywalls

Valérie Bélair-Gagnon   Truthiness in private spaces

Andrew Ramsammy   Rise of the rebel journalist

Tim Herrera   The safe space of service journalism

Ryan McCarthy   Platforms grow up or grow more toxic

Joanne Lipman   The year of the drone, really

Asma Khalid   The year of the newsy podcast

Annemarie Dooling   UGC as a path out of the bubble

Anita Zielina   The sales funnel reaches (and changes) the newsroom

Juliette De Maeyer and Dominique Trudel   A rebirth of populist journalism

Liz McMillen   The year of deep insights

Jim Friedlich   A banner year for venture philanthropy

Alberto Cairo   Communicating uncertainty to our readers

Francesco Marconi   The year of augmented writing

Andrew Haeg   The year of listening

Geetika Rudra   Journalism is community

Emily Goligoski   Incorporating audience feedback at scale

Sarah Marshall   Focusing on the why of the click

Erin Pettigrew   A year of reflection in tech

Carrie Brown-Smith   We won’t do enough

Mathew Ingram   The Faustian Facebook dance continues

Andrew Losowsky   Building our own communities

Kathleen Kingsbury   Print as a premium offering

Amy O'Leary   Not just covering communities, reaching them

David Weigel   A test for online speech

Caitlin Thompson   High touch, high value

P. Kim Bui   The year journalism teaches again

Samantha Barry   Messaging apps go mainstream

Keren Goldshlager   Defining a focus, and then saying no

Tracie Powell   Building reader relationships

Nushin Rashidian   A rise in high-price, high-value subscriptions

Gabriel Snyder   The aberration of 20th-century journalism

Matt Waite   The people running the media are the problem

Mira Lowe   News literacy, bias, and “Hamilton”

Felix Salmon   Headlines matter

Taylor Lorenz   “Selfie journalism” becomes a thing

Dan Colarusso   Let’s make live video we can love

Rebekah Monson   Journalism is community-as-a-service

Trushar Barot   API or die

S.P. Sullivan   Baking transparency into our routines

Ole Reißmann   Un-faking the news

Maria Bustillos   “It’s true — I saw it on Facebook”

Ariane Bernard   Better data about your users

Jon Slade   Trusted news, at a premium

Rasmus Kleis Nielsen   News after advertising may look like news before advertising

Emi Kolawole   From empathy to community

Mark Armstrong   Time to pay up

Ray Soto   VR moves from experiments to immersion

Vivian Schiller   Tested like never before

Laura Walker   Authentic voices, not fake news

Tim Griggs   The year we stop taking sides

Mandy Velez   The audience is the source and the story

Kawandeep Virdee   Moving deeper than the machine of clicks

Margarita Noriega   From pinning tweets to tweeting pins

Andrea Silenzi   Podcasts dive into breaking news analysis

Richard Tofel   The country doesn’t trust us — but they do believe us

Dhiya Kuriakose   The year of digital detoxing

Jonathan Hunt   Measurement companies get with the times

Ståle Grut   The battle for high-quality VR

Elizabeth Jensen   Trust depends on the details

Scott Dodd   Nonprofits team up for impact

Eric Nuzum   Podcasting stratifies into hard layers

Moreno Cruz Osório   The year of transparency in Brazilian journalism

Nathalie Malinarich   Making it easy

Mary Meehan   Feeling blue in a red state

Lee Glendinning   A call for great editing

Libby Bawcombe   Kids board the podcast train

Laura E. Davis   Show your work

Mario García   Virtual reality on mobile leaps forward

David Chavern   Fake news gets solved

Burt Herman   Local news gets interesting

M. Scott Havens   Quality advertising to pair with quality content

Rubina Madan Fillion   Snapchat grows up

Amie Ferris-Rotman   Вслед за Россией

Robert Hernandez   History will exclude you, again

Ernst-Jan Pfauth   Earn trust by working for (and with) readers

Nicholas Quah   Podcasting’s coming class war

Sydette Harry   Facing journalism’s history

Javaun Moradi   What can we own?

Doris Truong   Connecting with diverse perspectives

Alice Antheaume   A new test for French media

Corey Ford   The year of the rebelpreneur

AX Mina   2017 is for the attention innovators

Melody Kramer   Radically rethinking design

Michael Oreskes   Reversing the erosion of democracy

Adam Thomas   The coming collaboration across Europe

Zizi Papacharissi   Distracted journalism looks in the mirror

Lam Thuy Vo   The primary source in the age of mechanical multiplication

Carla Zanoni   Prioritizing emotional health

Jeremy Barr   A terrible year for Tiers B through D

Ashley C. Woods   Local journalism will fight a new fight

Matt Karolian   AI improves publishing

Christopher Meighan   Unlocking a deeper mobile experience

Jonathan Stray   A boom in responsible conservative media

Pablo Boczkowski   Fake news and the future of journalism

Sue Schardt   Objectivity, fairness, balance, and love

Julia Beizer   Building a coherent core identity

Erin Millar   The bottom falls out of Canadian media

Swati Sharma   Failing diversity is failing journalism

Rachel Schallom   Stop flying over the flyover states

Alexis Lloyd   Public trust for private realities

Peter Sterne   A dangerous anti-press mix

Mary Walter-Brown   Getting comfortable asking for money

Rachel Sklar   Women are going to get loud

Almar Latour   Thanks, #fakenews

Mike Ragsdale   A smarter information diet

Ken Schwencke   Disaggregation and collection

Tressie McMillan Cottom   A path through the media’s coming legitimacy crisis

Cory Haik   Navigating power in Trump’s America

Juan Luis Sánchez   Your predictions are our present